Congratulations to my sister, Paula McGrath, on the publication of her debut novel, Generation, published by JM Originals.
I’ve had the privilege of reading raw first drafts of most of these stories some time ago and watched them slowly evolve into the beautiful novel that was launched last week in the Gutter Bookshop in Cow’s Lane, Dublin.
Generation is a short novel that contains a huge amount, taking place over eighty years, three continents and three generations.
At its heart is Áine, a recently divorced woman in her thirties who wants some kind of escape from her life in Ireland: from her ex-husband and his pregnant girlfriend, her mundane job and unexciting love life. So she goes to stay for a few weeks on an organic farm near Chicago, with her six-year-old daughter Daisy. The trip doesn’t turn out as she imagined it would, and that summer will have unforeseeable consequences for everyone involved.
Ambitious and gripping, Generation moves effortlessly from the smallest of details to the largest of canvases, as the repercussions of the decisions taken by parents play out in the lives of their children for years to come.
This is a book that leaves you reflecting about many of the peripheral characters. I have a soft spot for Carlos, and for Yehudit. And the first chapter about the Irish miner going to Canada still gives me a lump in my throat no matter how many times I read it.
It was exciting to be in Dublin on publication day. We managed to drop into a few bookshops to see if we could spot it in the wild fending for itself. We found it first in Hodges Figgis: Here’s Paula looking slightly embarrassed at the paparazzi who followed her in.
And the reviews are coming in and saying all the nicest things. Christina Patterson from The Sunday Times says ‘The voices are beautifully woven together, and the prose has a weight and resonance way beyond the book’s slender length’ and compares the prose to Raymond Carver’s which is something to cut out and pin over the writing desk.
The structure of this novel is what makes it unique in my opinion. Jane Housham of The Guardian sums this up nicely:
‘It’s as if McGrath has spun her novel in a centrifuge, separating out the narrative elements and shearing off any remaining scraps of padding. What’s left is a sequence of verbal portraits, a clutch of individuals drawn to America over several decades, some of them Irish like the novelist herself, some from other diasporas. At first these characters seem disparate, unconnected, but gradually threads of attachment are strung between them, ultimately binding them into a coherent whole.’
I listened to To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman back to back this week.
“We suggest you view this work as an academic insight rather than as a nice summer novel. This situation is comparable to James Joyce’s stunning work ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man‘, and his original draft ‘Stephen Hero‘. ‘Hero’ was initially rejected, and Joyce reworked it into the classic ‘Portrait’. ‘Hero’ was eventually released as an academic piece for scholars and fans—not as a new ‘Joyce novel’. We would have been delighted to see “Go Set A Watchman” receive a similar fate.”
In conclusion, I’m not sorry I spent a week in Alabama with Scout/Jean Louise but I do feel that publishing this book was a huge swindle on the part of the publisher. Large profits were made by misleading the public that this was a prequel/sequel. How many of us purchased Mockingbird for the second time too? I couldn’t possibly know what state of mind Harper Lee is currently in, but I know I wouldn’t want any of my early drafts to be released like this.
I’m inclined to agree with Salman Rushdie on this:
Good news from the International Club of Bordeaux: My story ‘Well Done’ has been shortlisted in their 1st Annual Short Story Competition, judged by Amanda Hodgkinson. And I’m delighted that my fellow Writing Group member, Jane Cooper, is shortlisted too with ‘The Competition.’ Congratulations to the winners in each category.
Looking forward to reading all the shortlisted stories and the winners in the forthcoming e-book.
My short story ‘No Such Thing’ appears in Issue 3 (December 2014) of The Incubator, another great literary journal, featuring writing from Northern Ireland and Ireland. Have a browse; the pdf version is free to download. I’ve enjoyed ‘Sparta’ by Heather Richardson and look forward to reading the rest when I receive my hard copy.
Delighted to see my short story ‘Poke’ in the autumn 2014 issue of Crannóg Magazine.
Great to read the other stories in this issue. There are some very talented writers out there. My favourite (so far) is ‘Tomorrow’ by Melissa Goode. Beautiful and intriguing cover image by Isabelle Gaborit.
Writing news is trickling in at a slower pace these days as I’m sending out fewer stories and trying to concentrate on my next novel.
But one competition I did enter was the RTE Guide/Penguin Ireland Short Story Competition 2014 and I was delighted to hear that my story, The Bugaboo, was on the longlist.
I was longlisted in 2013 too and wrote this piece for writing.ie at the time. Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it to Dublin this year but I’m sure the attendees will enjoy the day in Pearse Street Library as much as I did last year.